Time for proactive role in security: Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.
Evert-Jan Daniels - Pool | Getty Images
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for his country to take a "greater and more proactive role" in regional security.

In a keynote speech to the 13th IISS Asian Security Summit in Singapore late Friday, Abe stressed that the U.S.-Japanese alliance remained the cornerstone of Japan's security policy in Asia.

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But he also called for Japan's neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) to join him in creating a stable environment in which Asia as a region could prosper.

The Japanese Prime Minister also emphasized the need to avoid "unexpected situations", and called on China and ASEAN to establish a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

His comments come against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical tension in Asia. Recent weeks have seen reports of Chinese boats ramming Vietnamese boats in the South China Sea, while there have been violent anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam against China's decision to place an oil rig in part of the South China Sea claimed by both China and Vietnam.

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In addition, relations between Tokyo and Beijing have soured in recent months following a dispute in the East China Sea over islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

ASEAN divided on China-Vietnam tension: Pro
ASEAN divided on China-Vietnam tension: Pro   

Abe called for the revival of the East Asia Summit as the "premier forum" for regional politics and security in Asia.

He called on the East Asia Summit, a forum for regional leaders, to create a permanent committee of representatives from countries that make ASEAN.

Abe called for Asian governments to disclose their military budgets in a bid to encourage transparency and halt the burgeoning arms race in the region, saying that: "A framework under which we publicly disclose our military budgets step by step...is a system that we should seek to establish."

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Abe described his foreign policy as a logical extension of 'Abenomics', and spoke of the birth of a "New Japanese" who were prepared to "shoulder the responsibilities of the coming years."

When challenged about his recent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, Abe spoke of his country's "acute remorse" for what happened during the Second World War, and reiterated that Japan was committed to never going to war again.

The Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo honors Japan's war dead, including some convicted war criminals.